Do I need permission to use text of unclassified FBI transcript? at DVinfo.net

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Old July 2nd, 2007, 10:05 PM   #1
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Do I need permission to use text of unclassified FBI transcript?

I want to make a movie about the interrogation of Wen Ho Lee.

The unclassified FBI transcript is here:

http://www.wenholee.org/transcript4868.htm

Basically, I want to use this "real life transcript" as my "screenplay script" as a re-enactment. Since this happened in real life, do I need special clearances or permission?

And if so, who would I get that permission from?

To me this is important and newsworthy, and I want people to know how he was treated.

I am really just a first time filmmaker and want experience... maybe submit it to festivals, if it is appropriate.

Thanks for your thoughts.
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Old July 3rd, 2007, 08:43 PM   #2
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I suspect that since it's government generated work, it's public domain.
I'm not a lawyer, but I'd suspect you're safe to quote it since it's public record.
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Old July 4th, 2007, 08:09 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wikipedia
Works created by an agency of the United States government are public domain at the moment of creation. Examples include military journalism, federal court opinions (but not necessarily state court opinions), congressional committee reports, and census data. However, works commissioned by the government but created by a contractor are still subject to copyright, and even in the case of public domain documents, availability of such documents may be limited by laws limiting the spread of classified information.
Also, I wouldn't worry about it. The chances of the US goverment bothering to sue you about it are very slim.
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Old July 6th, 2007, 06:17 PM   #4
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Thanks for the advice... you guys are great...

I'll just go on ahead with it, I guess... It does look like it's in the public domain, I suppose.

One last thing: I know I might be a little bit paranoid, but do you think that there's any worry that either of the two FBI interrogators [John Hudenko or Carol Covert] will sue me because they feel they might be misrepresented in this film? I.E. that somehow by putting this film out there that I am libeling them?

If you actually read the transcript, the interrogation methods that they use are not particularly flattering... they intentionally lie... they threaten Wen Ho Lee and his family... in fact, they are rather reprehensible... and I am worried that they might sue [as individuals.... rather than the US govern't itself] in order to prevent this from coming to light. Should I be worried, do you think?

Thanks for your help,

Albert
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Old July 6th, 2007, 06:48 PM   #5
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Albert,

You are worried about possible legal outcomes for a course of action you are contemplating.

Although there are a few lawyers on this board NO ONE is going to give you legal advice.

And that's what you need.

Go speak to an entertainment/IP lawyer. If you can't afford one, check with your local Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts program. They can usually give you a free consultation up front.

You WILL NOT get legal advice on this forum.
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Old July 7th, 2007, 10:00 PM   #6
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ok... thanks... I appreciate the thoughts that you all did give.

Take care,
Albert
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Old July 7th, 2007, 11:05 PM   #7
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There is nothing illegal about filming a recreation of an event that is a public record. However, you need to be very careful in the way you portray the people involved and the events. If you mis-portray a real life event, with characters based on real people, you put yourself in danger of a libel/slander lawsuit. I would be much more worried about that then how you use public records.
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Old July 8th, 2007, 07:50 PM   #8
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See the lawyer. Also, remember that Wen Ho Lee also has rights to this. He already is really "lawyered up", so you need help before doing anything that involves him.
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Old July 20th, 2007, 03:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Grunseth View Post
There is nothing illegal about filming a recreation of an event that is a public record. However, you need to be very careful in the way you portray the people involved and the events. If you mis-portray a real life event, with characters based on real people, you put yourself in danger of a libel/slander lawsuit. I would be much more worried about that then how you use public records.
Excellent advice, Adam. I couldn't put it any better myself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by George Ellis View Post
See the lawyer. Also, remember that Wen Ho Lee also has rights to this. He already is really "lawyered up", so you need help before doing anything that involves him.
No one has rights to their public testimony. If it is of public record, it is in the public domain (unless, of course, the testimony consisted of reading from protected expression -- I don't think that is likely here).
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Old July 30th, 2007, 01:30 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Grunseth View Post
There is nothing illegal about filming a recreation of an event that is a public record. However, you need to be very careful in the way you portray the people involved and the events. If you mis-portray a real life event, with characters based on real people, you put yourself in danger of a libel/slander lawsuit. I would be much more worried about that then how you use public records.
I would certainly agree. amd being portrayed badly is in the eye of the beholder so they can file suit even if its a good rendition. Also there may be issues of copyrighting the work itself if the transcript is used as actual text for the script.

Just some things to consider
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Old July 30th, 2007, 04:27 AM   #11
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US government materials are not subject to copyright protection. However, government materials might include content that is owned by a 3rd party. With an FBI transcript, the risk of 3rd party copyright is near zero, though.

See Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#105

Libel and slander are another thing altogether...
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